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"But Beware of Greeks Bearing Gifts!"

Reader comment on item: My Gloom: Back to September 10

Submitted by A.F.D. (Saudi Arabia), Dec 20, 2005 at 14:08

I agree that Americans and the US media no longer take Islamists aspirations seriously and indeed this is a preplexing problem. But Americans are known for their less than serious approach to "foreign problems" in general, most recently seen in the Senate's blocking the renewal of the Patriot Act and more specifically, in the infantile broohaha over the monitoring of phone calls by the US government. It's hard to believe that an adult member of Congress could possibly take issue with this monitoring procedure seriously given the circumstances (i.e. that the US is at war), but there you are.

However, I disagree that Prince Alwaleed's donations to Harvard and Georgetown are a cause for concern. In fact, I think they're a cause for hilarity.

After all, exactly what are students at these centers going to study? Well, first of all, they're going to have to study Middle Eastern languages, something few are called to and far fewer succeed at. Secondly and presumably, they're going to study "Islamic studies" and similarly ethereal subjects. This means, basically, that they're going to study "Medieval Studies" since all milestones of this civilization occurred in the past....hundreds and hundreds of years ago. Islamic civilization has long since stopped being a productive entity.

Of course, they might want to "specialize" in modern ME studies but this perforce would require more than just a basic familiarity with "classical" ME studies. Not doing so would be like specializing in American History without having a very good foundation in the Colonial Period. One couldn't be taken seriously were this the case.

In addition, presumably these students will spend some time in the Middle East in the (laughably) vain hope that their trips there will somehow deepen their "understanding" of the Middle East. In fact, what these trips usually produce are bitter and disappointed pseudo-scholars with much less than a favorable impressions of their chosem field of study. (Let's not forget: even as eminent a scholar as Bernard Lewis has never set foot in an Arab country, luckily for him). The chances that any of these "students" would ever conver to Islam are just about zilch. In fact, just the opposite results are much more likely.

My point is: if the purpose of these gifts is to "islamisize" future Western scholars, the whole program is going to backfire. I've seen this kind of thing over and over and this is why I consider the entire project hilarious. It's a project doomed to failure.

More "donations" of this sort should be sought and welcomed by American universities. Let's also not forget that Prince Alwaleed is a US educated (BA,MA) individual....and more importantly, that he owns about 17% of DisneyWorld-Paris....what does that tell you?
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Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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